NORTHFIELD, IL — In response to rising obesity rates around the world, and criticism of the food industry's contribution to the epidemic, Kraft Foods Inc. will initiate a new series of steps to further strengthen the alignment of its products and marketing practices with societal needs.

“The rise in obesity is a complex public health challenge of global proportions,” said Betsy D. Holden, co-CEO of Kraft Foods. “Just as obesity has many causes, it can be solved only if all sectors of society do their part to help. Kraft is committed to product choices and marketing practices that will help encourage healthy lifestyles and make it easier to eat and live better.”

The commitments Kraft is making, which are global in scope and supplement a variety of actions the company is already taking, will focus on four key areas: product nutrition, marketing practices, consumer information and public advocacy and dialogue. Some are fully developed and nearing implementation, while other steps will require further development, including continued input from experts and interest groups outside the company.

To aid in this process, Kraft is forming a global council of advisors to help it structure its ongoing response to obesity and develop policies, standards, measures and timetables for implementation.

Among the steps Kraft is committed to taking in the four areas are a cap on the portion size of single-serve packages; the elimination of all in-school marketing; guidelines for all advertising and marketing practices, including advertising and marketing to children, to encourage appropriate eating behaviors and active lifestyles; added nutrition and/or activity-related information on product labels and company web sites to assist consumer choices; advocacy for appropriate public policies to engage schools and communities in helping to improve fitness and nutrition.

“What people eat is ultimately a matter of personal choice, but we can help make it an educated choice,” said Roger K. Deromedi, co-CEO of Kraft Foods. “And helping them get more active is every bit as important as helping them eat better. By providing people with products and information they can use to improve their eating and activity behaviors, we can do our part to help arrest the rise in obesity.”

Kraft is currently in the process of forming its expert advisory council, which will bring together leading voices from key disciplines important to the company's response to changing patterns in diet, activity and weight. These will include experts in obesity, nutrition, physical activity, public health, human behavior, nutrient fortification and lifestyle education and intervention programs. Kraft expects to complete the formation of the council shortly.

And IHRSA would be happy to see a fitness member on such a council.

“As far as the Kraft initiative is concerned, IHRSA applauds Kraft for taking a leadership role in the food industry to combat the obesity epidemic,” said Brooke MacInnis, public relations manager for the Boston-based association.” At this point, we do not have any ‘tips’ on how to become involved with Kraft, but we would definitely support the idea of the fitness industry working in conjunction with the food industry, including partners like Kraft, with great enthusiasm.”

The company is targeting the end of 2003 to complete the development of these standards and measures. Implementation will begin in 2004 and will likely require two to three years to complete.